In her book “More than a Glitch: Confronting Race, Gender, and Ability in Tech,” Meredith Broussard explores how various tech fields, including AI, user-interface design, surveillance, and predictive coding, perpetuate social biases on the basis of race, gender, and ability. She covers topics such as face recognition software, predictive policing, predictive grading in education, and medical diagnosis, and identifies problems in these fields that are exacerbated by blind faith in technology. Broussard uses the term “techno-chauvinism” to refer to the faith in technology as other-worldly and flawless, which hinders critical thinking and progress towards fairness.
The book’s strength lies in Broussard’s use of real-life examples that make the material memorable and human, such as Richard Dahan’s experience at Apple and Robert McDaniel’s wrongful arrest. These stories give flesh and blood to the problems she discusses.
However, due to the nature of the topic, it’s difficult not to become partisan and appear to be advocating for one side while opposing another. My concern about this aspect of the style is, in part, rooted in rhetorical reasons. I personally wish the author had delved more deeply into the fundamental roots of techno-chauvinism, specifically its redemptive core. Wouldn’t it be better, more balanced, to talk about the allure of technology, its promises, and the reasons why so much money is being poured into technical projects, in addition to its dark side?
Broussard tries to present the core issues of the book as shared problems that can benefit everyone if solved. Chapter 6 stands out in this regard, where she discusses how designing interfaces with disabled people in mind can extend communication domains. Of course, writing about mistreatment of specific groups or individuals can make it challenging to remain calm and objective. Whether authors like Broussard should try to stay objective or embrace a more partisan approach is a debatable issue. Overall, I liked and benefited from the book. It’s a thought-provoking contribution, of interest to anyone interested in the social impact of technology.